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Penrose gets €30,000 after he quits post of 9 months

LABOUR was today trying to fend off a personnel crisis after the dramatic resignation of junior minister Willie Penrose.

With just weeks to go before a raft of unpopular budget measures are unleashed, Eamon Gilmore was under pressure to get his troops in line.

His party was rocked yesterday by the resignation of the housing minister and claims from an MEP that she was warned not to voice her unhappiness about the appointment of Kevin Cardiff to the European Court of Auditors.

Longford/Westmeath TD Penrose (55) walked away from his post with a €30,000 handshake, despite serving as a minister for less than nine months. He will now serve in the Dail as an Independent.

He tendered his resignation following intense Cabinet discussions over the closure of four barracks across the country.

And the decision to quit is set to spark a mass exodus of councillors from the party in Longford and Westmeath.

Furthermore, party members were left puzzled after their Ireland East MEP Nessa Childers accused anonymous party figures of threatening to expel her over comments she made about Mr Cardiff's appointment.

Senior Labour sources have today admitted that Mr Penrose's resignation was "damaging" to the party's image.

The 14 Labour councillors in Mr Penrose's constituency will today decide whether to follow suit and resign from the party.

Mullingar councillor Mick Dollard told the Herald: "The government has not kept its word. It doesn't make economic sense to close the barracks, it will actually cost money.

"There's no doubt it will result in widespread resignations from the party."

Sources in the party have conceded that the decision to close the barracks was a "Fine Gael policy".

Mr Penrose contradicted Taoiseach Enda Kenny's claims that the move would save €5m, adding that the thinking behind the decision was "stupid".

Tanaiste Mr Gilmore said he "regrets" Mr Penrose's decision but that the move was in the "best interests of the country".